All About ARCs

Right… What’s an ARC?

(If that line rings a comedic bell, then you’re probably as old as I am. If you’re not… Google it 😉 )

Quite simply, an ARC is an Advanced Review Copy of a book. It is usually given out by authors, for free,  before the book is publicly released, in the hopes of gaining some reviews prior to the big day. It can also be a great “test run” of the book, providing valuable feedback to the author and in some cases, pointing out errors in text or formatting that made it through the gauntlet of editors, proofreaders, and beta readers.

Like everything else, different authors have vastly differing opinions on ARCs and their value, and, as a result, not every author chooses to do them.

Why bother?

Personally, I like them. As I said above, they can be a great initial indicator of how the book will be received. If some oopses make it through all the safety nets in place, it can provide a heads-up (and therefore a chance to fix) before the book goes live. Plus, I’ve found it to be a very positive experience, one that brings me closer to some of my most supportive and interactive readers.

It’s not all peaches and cream, however. There are some downsides. Distributing any material outside of normal publishing channels runs the risk of illegal pirating, which means that ARC readers must be chosen with particular care. The “bookkeeping” involved – creating a special copy, sending it out,  keeping track – can be time intensive. And there are those – like a certain major ebook retailer who will remain nameless – who doubt the honesty of ARC reviews and therefore sometimes remove them. In fact, if the bots-that-shall-not-be-named see the phrase “in exchange for an honest review” or anything similar, chances are, that review is going to be taken down.

So Who Gets ARCs?

Again, different authors do things different ways, but most authors that I know either send ARCs to vetted bloggers or trusted readers (to minimize the risk of piracy).  I pull from my Facebook reader group, the Zanders Clan. Because I write across several genres, and because not everyone likes everything, I post a sign-up for each new release separately.

Are There Rules?

To semi-quote Captain Barbosa, they’re more like guidelines than rules, really.

The author agrees to provide a free, pre-release version of a completed story at no charge.

The ARC receiver agrees to read and post an honest review within a certain timeframe*, and also agrees not to share any part of the provided material (which is protected under copyright laws) to anyone else.

*Sometimes, if a reader/blogger didn’t particularly like the book, they’ll provide the author with private feedback rather than post a review less than 3 stars. That’s something that should be made clear up front so that everyone is on the same page.

Sounds awesome. How can I be an ARC reader?

If you really like an author and genuinely want to help, I suggest connecting with that author, either through social media and/or author/reader groups. Build up a rapport. If you come in right out of the box with “I want to be an ARC reader”, you might be seen as someone just looking for freebies. It’s sad, I know, but that happens a lot more often than you’d think.

Also, this may sound obvious, but read some of the author’s books and post reviews prior to asking to become an ARC reader. Showing the author that you are a fan and serious about your desire to support  will go a long way in getting you an ARC. And use common sense here – if you’re posting 2-stars and saying all the things you didn’t like about someone’s book, you’re probably not going to be at the top of the list when that author is handing out ARCs. Sure, we want honesty, but if it’s between someone who likes our books and someone who doesn’t, guess who we’re going to choose?

And – I can’t stress this enough – if you accept an ARC, hold up your end of the bargain. The Author-ARC Reader connection is one of mutual trust and is not to be taken lightly. Read the book. Post a review within the specified time frame. Otherwise, you might not get another chance.

Happy reading!